I usually enjoy and agree with opinion pieces published in The Washington Times. But here, in Charles Hurt’s “open letter” to Christopher Nolan, Sean Penn and Warner Brothers, I am convinced that the writer and I have not seen the same movie; perhaps we don’t even live in the same world.
First, how can he lump Sean Penn and Christopher Nolan together? Doesn’t he know that THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, for its part, may be the best depiction of the dangers of nihilism piggy-backing on the socialist/egalitarian movement that we’ve ever seen? At the very least, it’s a much better movie, in terms of dramatizing fundamental ideas (honesty, the importance of the alternative of live vs. death, the dangers of appeasement, the ability of the individual to achieve great things and defeat evil), than one could ever expect to be produced by this culture. (For a detailed, spoiler-filled, analysis of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, listen to my “Don’t Let It Go…Unheard” podcast from Sunday.)
And even though I am no Sean Penn fan (and, leaving aside a pesky cause-and-effect problem of blaming a movie or trailer that has not yet been screened), no film depiction of violence can be blamed for this — or any — massacre. Human beings have something called free will; this makes it possible for Hurt (not me, because I’m an atheist) to imply that people will be going to hell for depicting evil in movies. (As for me, I just judge people as they deserve and act accordingly.) Free will makes us able to identify villains as evil, to side with and be inspired by the heroes, and to act accordingly.
But I guess Hurt would rather create a society of Platonic philosopher-kings who prohibit the depiction of any evil in art, in hopes that refusing to depict evil will have the effect of eradicating it from society? No matter how good a culture is, there will always be a small minority of criminals like the man responsible for the Aurora, CO, massacre. But without great art like THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, to depict the triumph of good over that evil, we can never hope to reach the day when our culture is the best that it can be. Shame on Hurt for selling humanity short like this.
UPDATE: Check out Bosch Fawstin’s piece responding to Charles Hurt, “It Was Him and Him Alone.”
UPDATE 2: In this story we learn that Holmes purchased his semi-automatic on the day he failed an oral PhD exam. In another we learn about a notebook, with elaborate plans for the massacre, that he sent a psychiatrist at his university. Good thing for Hurt that he published his smear piece before we could learn what actually might have led Holmes to do what he did.